C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Sukhna check dams saved city from flooding
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
About 180 small check dams in the lower Shivaliks have saved the Sukhna Lake from a possible ecological catastrophe and also prevented a situation which could have threatened the city with heavy flooding.

The dams, built north of the lake, slowed down the discharge of water into the lake on August 2 and 3, which recorded the heaviest rainfall in 47 years. They also stopped tonnes of silt and slush from coming into the lake. According to officials monitoring the dams, the rainfall was so heavy that Sukhna, despite these dams, was filled to the brim. If the dams had not been in place, the lake would have overflowed and caused extensive damage to life and property in the city.

The lake presently holds an estimated 14 lakh cubic metres of water. The dams in the sanctuary hold another 5 lakh cubic metres of water, which is close to one third of the lake.

Besides, if not checked by the dams, the gushing waters would have heavily eroded the fragile Shivaliks, which are basically mud hills.

Officials claimed that despite the pressure on these dams due to torrential rains, these have not been damaged.

The check dams were built over the years in the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the catchment area of the lake. The entire sanctuary spread over 26 sq km and another 8 sq km of contiguous forest area is managed by Haryana. It is critical for the survival of the lake, as a major portion of the water into the lake flows down from here. The lake has a catchment area of 42 sq km.

The system of the check dams is such that only the overflows from these dams go into the lake. So when water cascades from the hills, it first fills the check dams. Only the overfill goes to the Sukhna choe and then into the lake.

The Deputy Conservator of Forests, Mr Ishwar Singh, said “Without the dams, the rain water would have taken away huge chunks of earth with it. There was so much of water that even old time workers in the sanctuary had not seen this kind of inflows.”

The fragile ecosystem of the sanctuary has, however, not been left untouched by the devastation caused by rain on that day. The Chandigarh Tribune team which visited the sanctuary today found that the dams had been filled to the brim and the water was muddy in colour due to high clay content. Rain water had eroded the earth and exposed the roots of trees. One concrete “spur”” used for diverting water had been washed away, while trees had been uprooted. A concrete causeway was also damaged. Mr Ishwar Singh said, “The damage is little when compared to the invisible benefits.”



Couple alleges swapping of baby in General Hospital
DNA test likely; probe ordered
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
It came as a rude shock for Mr Kuldeep Singh and his wife Kuljeet Kaur, who were initially told that they had been blessed with a baby boy at the General Hospital, Sector 16, on Tuesday night but instead were handed a baby girl today.

The Director, Health Service, UT, Dr C P Bansal, has marked an inquiry into the incident. Dr Rupinder Kaur, Head of the Department of Paediatrics at the General Hospital, will be the inquiry officer. The DHS said the inquiry would be completed at the earliest.

Mr Kuldeep Singh, a resident of Sector 24 here, was handled a baby girl by the hospital authorities today although the nurses had told him that a boy had been born.

“Ever since my baby was born at 9: 37 pm last night, I was told that I have a baby boy. Even on the official files, they had written baby boy. But today the staff told me that it was a clerical mistake and that I actually had a baby girl,’’ said Mr Kuldeep Singh, who works as a salesman at a shop in Sector 21 here while talking to The Tribune today.

His wife, Mrs Kuljeet Kaur, who is still in hospital, was also told that she had delivered a baby boy by the hospital nurses and other staff members had even congratulated her.

In fact a baby boy was shown to my wife on the night of the delivery itself, before he was shifted to another ward,’’ says the father who had to call the police from the police station, Sector 17 to sort out the matter last night. He said the police told them that a DNA test would be conducted on Thursday morning to check whether the baby girl, which is now with the couple, belongs to them or not. The DHS, however, said that the inquiry ordered by him is separate and the DNA testing is a matter concerning the police.

Mr Kuldeep Singh also met the Medical Superintendent of General Hospital, Sector 16, Dr Usha Bishnoi Kapoor, for lodging an official complaint.



Woman tests positive for cholera
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
Despite the UT Health Department’s claim that the city has nothing to fear on account of diseases, cholera has resurfaced in Chandigarh. A 35-year-old resident of Colony No 5 here, Jyoti, here tested positive for the water-borne disease at the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Sector 32, today. She was admitted to the hospital emergency with the symptoms and was later confirmed of having cholera. Sources said apart from this case, diarrhoea cases had been coming in the hospital as two new cases were reported today.

Though city hospitals, including the GMCH and the PGI, had been getting positive cases of cholera from the neighbouring areas of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh did not get any fresh cases for the last several weeks. The UT Health Department had earlier declared six positive cases of cholera in the city after more than 60 suspected cholera cases had been brought to the General Hospital, Sector 16. These cases too belonged to the construction site No 10 in Sector 50, adjacent to the Colony No 5.

While unfit drinking water is the primary cause of the spread of the disease, the presence of shallow handpumps in the colonies is the real threat for the residents. After the earlier cholera outbreak, all water samples had failed.



Governor orders probe into beating incident
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 11
The Punjab Governor and Administrator of Chandigarh, Justice O.P. Verma (retd), today assured the agitating residents of Burail, of a speedy action in the case relating to the beating up of a boy and his parents by Chandigarh police personnel yesterday. The Governor also ordered a thorough enquiry into the episode.

The residents closed their shops and led a protest march to Raj Bhavan, in support of their demands. The police intercepted the agitators at the Sector 7-8 roundabout. The protesters shouted slogans against the Administration.

The local leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Mr Balbir Singh Jhangra, Mr Kulwant Singh Sodhi and parents of the victim met the Governor and narrated the incident to him.

The delegation demanded that action should be taken against the erring police officials, who had beaten up Amit and the protesters. They demanded action against the Deputy Superintendent of Police, and an Inspector for their alleged misbehaviour.

Justice Verma informed the delegation that he had already initiated action in this regard after reading about the incident in the newspapers, today.

Mr Kamaljit Suri, father of the victim, alleged that his son was beaten up mercilessly in public view. He also showed his injury marks on his left shoulder and left leg. He further said his family was afraid of the police now. He also said that they would approach the high court and the Human Rights Commission if the Administration denied them justice.

Mr Kulwant Singh Sodhi, a resident of Burail, said he was also roughed up by the police and he received several injuries. He will file a complaint after a medical examination.

The local leader of BSP, Mr Jhangra, alleged that the woman Sub-Inspector Punam Dillawari, was faking injury. The police was trying to save its skin. On the other hand the mother of the victim, Mrs Alka Suri, filed a complaint in Sector 34 police station that the cops who were driving the traffic police Gypsy (CH-01-G-6148), should be brought to book and punished.

She accused the police of beating her son with belts and batons. She stated in her report that her son panicked as the police signalled him to stop. He called her up when he was on the run. When she with her husband reached the Sector 20-32 roundabout, they saw a large number of people gathered at the spot. The cops were beating the boy brutally in their Gypsy. As she and her husband tried to prevent them from beating her son, they thrashed them also. She also alleged that the police threatened them with dire consequences if they tried to inform anybody. She further alleged that her son lost his gold chain and mobile phone.

Taking the incident seriously Justice Verma asked the Inspector-General of police, Mr Rajesh Kumar, to enquire into the incident and submit the report at the earliest.

Meanwhile, several organisations today condemned the high-handedness of city police. The local unit of Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the action of the police and demanded strict action against the police officers who beat up Amit.

Saviours, a human rights organisation, said that the behaviour of the Chandigarh police was worsening day by day.



Captain beaten up in pub
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 11
An Army Captain invited trouble when he allegedly made an offer to a girl to dance at a pub in Sector 17 last night.

According to eyewitnesses, the Captain was having drinks with a lawyer. Under the influence of liquor, he made an offer to a girl sitting in the company of some girls and a boy, to accompany him in a dance. However, the boy sitting with the girls then slapped the Captain.

The Captain and his friend dragged the boy out of the pub, and started beating him up. Outside the pub, some boys sided with the boy, and began to thrash both the Captain and the lawyer.

Interestingly, the boy and the girls managed to flee away leaving the others fighting for them.

It was only after intervention of the police, that a compromise was reached.



Villagers up in arms against move on Urban Estate
Bipin Bhardwaj

Zirakpur, August 11
Hundreds of residents of Singhpura, Ramgarh Bhudda and Nagla villages are up in arms against the Punjab Urban Development Authorities (PUDA) move for acquiring their agricultural land for developing an urban estate.

Farmers complain that PUDA itself would be violating the New Capital Periphery (Control) Act, 1952, by developing a township in the no-construction zone. Moreover, the development of an Urban Estate would also change the land use in this area, they allege.

Accusing PUDA of planning to uproot them for the sake of development, more than 800 families are feeling cheated by the government. Most of these villagers own small landholdings and agriculture is their main source of livelihood.

The proposal has put the farmers in a quandary over the status of their movable and immovable property. The villagers have decided to constitute an action committee and launch a protest. Villagers today held meetings in their respective villages to chalk out a plan of action against the decision of PUDA.

Mr Ranjit Singh, a former sarpanch of Singhpura village, says PUDA comesup with such projects to acquire acres of land at throwaway prices. “Farmers would be rendered landless as they would get minimal prices for their prime land here,” he fears.

“PUDA will sell the land after carving out plots and selling those at much higher prices after acquiring it at low rates. Acquisition is going to benefit PUDA and not the common villagers,” claims Mr Tejinder Singh, sarpanch of Nagla village.

Mr Daljit Singh, a resident of Singhpura village, says a delegation of villagers had approached Ms Preneet Kaur, MP, on this issue a couple of months ago, requesting her not to allow their land to be acquired, but to no avail.

Villagers have threatened to launch a protest against the move and block the highway to press for their demands.

Meanwhile, the hike in property prices continued for the second day today. Developers and property dealers are assuring buyers of development and facilities in their housing colonies on a par with the Urban Estate.



Reports about HC judges’ transfer baseless: minister
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
Dismissing as baseless rumours about the transfer of Punjab and Haryana High Court Judges, Union Minister of Law and Justice H R Bhardwaj today claimed that their problem with the High Court Chief Justice had more or less been resolved.

He claimed that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was consulting his colleagues in the matter and their top priority was to restore normal functioning in larger public interest. "The Punjab and Haryana High Court has a glorious tradition. Its image should not be tarnished," he said. "I have sympathy for all the judges".

Regarding the safeguards for preventing "strikes" and incidents of "mass casual leave", the minister said a code of conduct was already in existence. "The lawyers should, however, not abstain from work. They have to serve the courts and the mankind," he asserted.

In Chandigarh for addressing a meet of Registrars-General, the minister also claimed that the transfer policy being followed previously was "healthy". Ignoring the same had resulted in "selective transfers". "There is a need for a permanent transfer policy", he admitted. The Union Minister said he was in favour of an in-house mechanism for correcting the judiciary and redressing the grievances of even the commoners.

Addressing a press conference at a Sector 10 hotel, the minister flatly refused to comment on the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act. "Do not make me comment on something I do not wish to talk about," he told the media. He, nevertheless, applauded the Union Government's decision to scrap Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and claimed that "safer laws were being included in the statute".

Referring to problems faced by the judiciary he said the vacancies should be filled "quickly" and the courts should be equipped with computers and other "modern gadgets". For the purpose, Rs 125 crore had been allocated for one year.

His assertion about filling the vacancies is significant as the number of Punjab and Haryana High Court Judges is just 28 against a sanctioned strength of 40 and recommended strength of 53.

The problem is not just limited to this court. At present, there are just 13,000 judicial officers in the country, including the Chief Justice of India. At an average, there are 10 to 12 officers per one million citizens. In the U.S., the number is 125 per million. In the U.K., it is 100 per million. Currently, 235 posts of judge were lying vacant in the country.

Giving details about government's decision to repeal POTA, he said the Centre was working out the modalities for amending the Unlawful Activities Act of 1967. This would help the state in dealing with terrorism.

Describing POTA as "harsh law", the minister claimed that the stand of the present government on the Act was "always clear". He added that law was being misused not only against the commoners, but also the politicians.

''The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act was much safer," the minister said. He added that the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) had also failed to serve the purpose of tackling terrorism.



BEL develops tactical radio for Army
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
In the backdrop of electronic warfare assuming a crucial role in today's battlefield environment, Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL) has developed a tactical radio for mobile communications which is not only capable of secure transmission, but also highly resistant to jamming by the enemy.

Development of the radio was initiated at BEL's Panchkula complex about three years ago and some units are presently undergoing trials under various environmental and field conditions.

"Once this phase is over, we expect a trial order from the Army for a few hundred sets," a senior officer at BEL said. "The radio would be installed in armoured vehicles for undergoing trials under realistic battlefield conditions during exercises," he added.

The Army requires thousands of such secure communication sets and the quantum of orders for the radio, if approved for induction, is stated to be worth several hundred crore rupees. The radio is presently referred to as VHF--FH Trans-receiver and is yet to be given a common name.

What makes this set different from other radios in use is that it continues to change frequencies while receiving and broadcasting, which makes it impossible for the enemy to hone on to a particular frequency and jam it. BEL officials said that it had 2320 channels and could hop 250 frequencies in a second. The frequency hopping mode could be pre-programmed.

Controlled by a special software, it has a built-in encryption system for voice as well as data communication to ensure secrecy. It can also broadcast in "clear" and fixed frequency mode.

The radio has direct serial data and fax interfaces and is equipped with an in-built GPS receiver. There is also a provision for voice activated command for hands-free operations.

Though the radio is man-portable and designed for mobile communications, it can also be used on vehicles or from static positions. It weighs just about 4 kg. It can operate from a car or 12 volt batteries.

BEL had earlier designed a similar, ruggedised radio for tanks and armoured vehicles, which weighed around 15 kg.



Tribune union decries cut in EPF rate
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
Even as the Union Government's decision to cut interest rate on the employees' provident fund(EPF) by 1 per cent has drawn flak from various quarters, over 23 lakh employees of Punjab and Chandigarh will be affected by the decision.

According to sources here, several lakhs of employees on the verge of retirement will have to bear the brunt of the decision. as it would adversely affect their hard-earned savings.

Meanwhile, Mr Jagtar Singh Sidhu ,president, of the Tribune Employees Union, termed the step as “anti-employee” saying that it would hit the working class hard as it had come in the wake of a hike in LPG and petrol prices.

The union expressed its solidarity with the associations opposing the decision and demanded its immediate withdrawal. The Punjab State Committee of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) urged the Left parties to reconsider the support to the UPA Government.



Beware, snakes are lurking around
Vishal Gulati

WHILE walking in the thick vegetation areas, if you hear a hiss, don’t panic. Come to a halt immediately as you may have inadvertently intruded into the territory of a serpent.

After the rains, they normally come out in the open. Snakes, which are called bio-indicators, can be seen in the Leisure Valley, parks, the forest areas behind Panjab University and the Rock Garden, vegetation between the Sukhna Lake and the golf grounds, the catchment area of the lake, which is botanically the richest area in Chandigarh, or even in your backyard.

Out of the 255 species found in India, only 50 are venomous. Four species, which are called the “big four,” the Russell’s viper, the common krait, the saw-scaled viper and the cobra, pose a bigger threat to humans as the latter live near their habitation. The brightly coloured common krait is the deadliest Indian snake. It is 15 times more poisonous than the cobra.

In City Beautiful and its surrounding areas, a few species like the Russell’s viper, the common krait, the saw-scaled viper, the cobra, the striped keelback, the checkered keelback and the rat snake can be seen.

Capt Suresh Sharma (retd), who has been running a self-funded snake cell in the city since 1998, says most of the snakes are killed because of human ignorance and superstition. “A snake cannot chase you like a dog. It attacks only in self-protection. The cobra and the Russell’s viper give a hiss before they attack — the hiss of a Russell’s viper is louder,” he says.

Till date Capt Sharma has caught nearly 650 snakes, most of them are common kraits.

The cobra, common in rice-growing areas, feeds on insects, lizards, frogs, small snakes and sometimes birds. It is hunted for its skin.

From light yellow to jet black, the rat snake can adapt to almost any environment. It is commonly found in godowns and is not poisonous. Its maximum length is 3.5 metre.

The Russell’s viper, which is usually brown or yellow, lives in rock outcrops and hedgerows of cactus and other bushes. The checkered keelback is a water snake. Active during the day and night, its skin is a prominent item in the skin trade. It can be spotted in the catchment area of the Sukhna Lake.

Closely resembling the checkered keelback, the striped keelback, light or dark brown with tan or yellow stripes, is a diurnal species. It can be seen under rocks or on trees.

Capt Sharma says following rat tracks, snakes often enter houses and hide themselves under trunks, beds or behind cylinders. They prefer cool and dark places. He says drainpipe openings in the house should have fixed mesh covers. “Avoid making a rockery in the garden as it attracts the common krait. While walking in the high grass, disturb the grass ahead with a stick to ensure that there is no snake,” says Capt Sharma.

He says it is very difficult for people to know that they have been bitten at all. There may be no pain, but consulting a doctor is a must.



2 students hit with rifle butt
Tribune News Service

Mohali, August 11
A day after the Chandigarh police thrashed a young boy and his parents for violating traffic rules, a Mohali police commando today hit two college students riding a scooter with the butt of a rifle near Government College here.

According to information, Rajesh, a student of the college, along with his friend Ravi, came out of the college on a scooter without a helmet. He was asked to stop by head constable Balram Rana and commando Sukhvinder Singh.

Instead of stopping, the two tried to flee but were allegedly hit by the commando with the butt of his rifle. Rajesh fell off the scooter and was injured. His friend rushed him to the Civil Hospital.

Stating that the commando had no intention of hurting Rajesh, traffic police in charge Jagjit Singh said when the commando tried to stop the two, they tried to flee and hit another scooter, which made the two fall.



Shifting of proposed garbage centre sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
Resentment prevails among residents of Sector 46-C against the move of the Municipal Corporation to construct a garbage dumping centre (Sehaj Safai Kendra) outside main gates of the government creche and Government High School. It also falls in the residential area.

A delegation of residents along with the Municipal Councillor of the ward, Ms Pushpa Sharma, met the Mayor, Ms Kamlesh, on Monday and handed over a letter of protest to her. The residents demanded that the site of the SSK should be shifted to some other place and the provision of an incinerator should be made there.

Mr C.L.Thapar, a resident of the area, said the Mayor had assured them that the SSK would be shifted to some other convenient place in the sector . She also sent the letter to the Municipal Commissioner, Mr M.P. Singh for his consideration. Talking to this correspondent, the Mayor said she would see to it that the demand was met.

Meanwhile, the residents today argued with the municipal contractor to stop the work. However, the contractor refused and sought a written order from the corporation. Mrs Pushpa Sharma had earlier stopped labourers from digging trenches on one side of the proposed site.

The residents said that if the SSK was built on the proposed site, schoolchildren and residents would be exposed to perpetual stench. They also expressed concern about cleanliness around the centre.

The Municipal Commissioner, however, downplayed the fears of the residents and said the SSK would work as a mini garbage disposal centre. He said, “It is being constructed under a centrally-sponsored scheme to make the city dustbin-free. The Central Pollution Control Board and the city Administration have collaborated to implement the scheme in the city.”

Mr M.P. Singh said, “The city never had a well-planned localised garbage collection and disposal system. The SSK scheme will help check the menace of stray animals. It will be easier for the MC vehicles to transport garbage from these kendras regularly. Dustbins will be kept in the SSKs and the ‘safai karamcharis’ and the workers employed by the resident welfare associations will be tasked to separate disposable material from the garbage collected.”

For getting the proposed SSK shifted to some other place, he asked the residents to meet the Chief Architect, Chandigarh Administration, with a proposal of an alternative site.


Property owners to take up bylaws with admn
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 11
The executive body of the Property Owners Welfare Association (POWA) at a meeting today decided to take up the matter of building bylaws with the Chandigarh Administration.

Members said the policies of the administration in the name reforms were more for commercialisation.

Reverting to the leasehold system from the freehold system in respect of commercial property was an example of ad-hocism in the formulation of policies, a statement of the POWA said.

In the absence of a democratic set-up in the city, the bureaucratic hierarchy acted whimsically while formulating anti-people and anti-investers policies aimed at revenue 
collection, the association said.

The POWA had suggested getting each policy approved by the municipal corporation before notification.

It was resolved to hold a seminar of property owners of the city soon to discuss the existing bylaws.



High-handedness by toll barrier staff alleged
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, August 11
Mr P.S. Bhinder, Chief Manager, Indian Overseas Bank, Gurgaon, has alleged highhandedness by Toll Tax collectors at the railway overbridge on the Kalka-Ambala highway near here, on August 7.

Mr Bhinder alleged that the toll contractor has recruited under-age and illiterate employees for the collection of the tax. The employees signalled his vehicle, carrying a “Government of India” sign, and argued with the driver. Without listening to him, they demanded Rs 11.

Mr Bhinder alleged that following arguments, some other toll barrier employees blew a whistle and musclemen of the contractor gathered there. He said vehicles carrying “Government of India” sign were exempt from paying toll at toll barriers on highways.

Mr Jagdeep Singh, director of the company which had constructed the overbridge, said collection of toll from the bank employee was genuine. He emphasised that bank employees often used vehicles for business purposes.



Two held for eve-teasing
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, August 11
The police has arrested two persons on the charge of eve-teasing.

Pardeep Singh of Sector 22 and Major Singh of Mukandpur village in Ropar district were held for eve-teasing from Sector 22 and GMCH-32, respectively, yesterday. The police has registered two cases of obscene acts against the accused under Section 294 of the IPC in the police stations of Sector 11 and 31, respectively.

Liquor seized

The police yesterday arrested a person from Sector 38 (West) for allegedly possessing liquor. The police seized six bottles whisky from his possession.

A case under Sections 61, 1, 14 of the Excise Act has been registered.

Scooter stolen

Ranjit Singh, a resident of Pipliwala town in Mani Majra, lodged a complaint at the Sector 19 police station that his Bajaj Chetak scooter (CH-01U-5543), which was parked at Sadar Bazar in Sector 19, was stolen on August 9.

The police has registered a case under Section 379 of the IPC.


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